There has been a sorrowful ''physical decline'' in white American athletes. So much so that the United States can no longer compete in the Olympics or anyplace else without its ''black legion'' of ''differently bred'' gladiators.

Were those views expressed by Jimmy the Greek Snyder last week?

No! Those were the views of Der Angriff, the propaganda publication of Nazi leader Paul Joseph Goebbels in 1936 after Jesse Owens had demolished Adolf Hitler's claims of ''Aryan supremacy'' at the Olympics in Berlin.

Even in 1936, when there was not a single black American in professional football, baseball or basketball, people were absorbed in theories about the physical ''superiority'' of blacks (and, concomitantly, about the supposed intellectual superiority of whites). In his book, ''The Olym-pic Pageant,'' Alexander Weyand said: ''There seemed to be some doubt in the Nazi mind whether Negroes were really human beings -- especially when the Negroes won.''

In the United States, sportswriters dabbled in cliche's about ''our Ethiopian phalanx,'' and even scholars were talking about a London physician named Francis Crookshank, who set forth the theory that the Negro derived from the gorilla, the Mongolian from the orangutan and the white man from the chimpanzee. Crookshank said the chimpanzee was by far the most intelligent of the anthropoids, leading him to conclude that blacks were of a ''lower race.''

Thirty-nine years ago, when blacks weren't remotely close to dominating football, baseball or basketball, I wrote 12 articles on ''The Black Athlete'' for the Minneapolis Tribune. I laugh now as I remember that the raging theory was not that, as Jimmy the Greek says, blacks were bred to have ''big thighs that run up their backs.'' The line then was that blacks were winning the dashes and sprints because they had longer heel bones and specially bred calf muscles.

This stuff was taken so seriously that Dr. W. Montague Cobb, the renowned former head of the anatomy department at Howard University, and a team of scientists at Western Reserve University in Ohio plunged into anatomical studies of whether long heel bones, a high arch, flat feet, ''Negroid'' calf muscles and long lower limbs gave blacks superiority in shorter races.

The scientists compared Owens with Frank Wykoff, the white runner who shared his world record of running the 100-yard dash in 9.4 seconds. What they found was that Owens' calf muscle, with its long belly and short tendon, was typically Caucasoid, while white runner Wykoff's calf muscle had a short belly and long tendon, which was assumed to be typically Negroid.

In 1959, Cobb noted that many whites had bettered Owens' record, and he said to me: ''Suddenly some of these white boys have gotten some Negro genes from somewhere.''

I joke about this business of ''big thighs'' and ''longer heel bones'' because I don't want the mental woes of taking this stuff seriously. The Greek was probably on track when he suggested that black kids practice more at putting a basketball in a hoop, hitting a rock (baseball) with a stick and carrying a football through 11 playground bruisers bent on mayhem -- simply because the black kids are ''hungrier." They know that in America hundreds of other avenues to fame and fortune are barricaded against them. But The Greek didn't stop when he was ahead. He got into that so-far-unprovable and destructive field of imputing certain superiorities to certain races.

You can say farewell to The Greek, but you ought to do it in the knowledge that the views about race and sports that oozed from his mouth last Friday will be uttered as long as we live. To vast millions of people, race is everything, and they want to explain everything in terms of race. It will never change.